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Bruce Dowbiggin

Recency Bias: Why Kraken, Knights Avoided Expansion Fate


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Like isn’t fair. That’s the triusm. For fans of established NHL teams the sight of the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken still in the playoffs— while their own teams are playing golf— is a little galling. Aren’t expansion teams supposed to lose a lot for a long time before gaining success?

The Washington Capitals in their debut season of 1974-75 posted the worst single-season record ever at 8-67-5. (Imagine how much worse the losing if this occurred before the demise of ties?) The Caps never won two consecutive games; their 21 total points were half that of their expansion brethren, the Kansas City Scouts; their .131 winning percentage is still the worst in NHL history, and they lost 37 straight road games.

Only marginally better were the 1992-93 expansion Ottawa Senators, who brought the NHL back to Canada’s capital after the first Senators team folded in 1934. The team recorded three NHL records that season: longest home losing streak of eleven; longest road losing streak with a total of 39 (nearly the whole season) and fewest road wins in a season, with just one victory.

In the same year of 1992-92, the San Jose Sharks, a hybrid expansion team in its first year after leaving Cleveland, posted a brutal 11-71-2 mark. The Sharks allowed 10 or more goals in a game three times and finished the season 22nd in both scoring (219 goals for) and goaltending (359 goals against).

And so on. The 2000-01 Atlanta Thrashers went 14-57-7. The 1972-73 New York Islanders were a putrid 12-60-6 in their inaugural NHL campaign. (At least the Islanders paid off their fans for the abysmal start, winning the Stanley Cup within eight years and preceding to rip off four straight Cups from 1980-83.) The Caps took till 2018 to get a Cup. Kansas City moved to become the Colorado Rockies and then the New Jersey Devils before becoming a huge success with three Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003. The Sharks and Senators have no championships at all.

Many had predicted similar failure for the Knights. But it didn’t happen that way. Nor did it go sideways in Seattle, either.  For one, the enormous $500M Vegas/ $650M Seattle expansion fees demanded some competitiveness. Then, cap pressure from Gary Bettman’s salary cap forced established teams into bad decisions, forcing teams to be creative when they could not pay their stars more money. So clubs began handing out no-movement clauses (NMC) and no-trade-clauses (NTC) like Halloween candy in lieu of salary. These alterations would get their revenge in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion fiasco (for teams).

To guarantee a fair expansion draft process for the Golden Knights the league hired former Vancouver assistant GM Laurence Gilman to design a protocol for the selections. What he found did not exactly correspond to the assignment letter: “It was called an expansion draft, but an expansion draft is what occurred in 2001 when Minnesota and Columbus selected players between them. This was an asset-harvest event. Las Vegas wasn’t competing with another franchise and had the ability to map out exactly what they wanted to harvest.”

That they did. In 2016, the Knights had hired former player and ex-Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, who had from 1997 to 2014 orchestrated the building of the Caps from sad sacks to contenders. McPhee then hired personnel specialist Kelly McCrimmon to be his right-hand man in the process. By 2017, McPhee and McCrimmon understood how the expansion game was changed by issues such as NMCs and NTCs. In 2017, there were 66 NHL players who owned a NMC in their contracts, requiring them to be protected by their clubs in the expansion draft— even if those clubs would rather get out from under their contracts.

Columbus had given goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell contracts with no-move-clauses, long before GM Jarmo Kekalainen had contemplated expansion ramifications, and they suffered the consequences as a result.  Enter McPhee who worked a deal where Vegas would select William Karlsson — who had just one goal in his final 43 games in Columbus — while also receiving a first-round pick, a second-round pick and David Clarkson’s expensive contract. Karlsson would score 43 goals and 78 points in the Knights first season. The two draft picks would be turned into a deal for Nick Suzuki and, eventually, Max Pacioretty.

McPhee then targeted Anaheim. The Ducks were forced to protect Kevin Bieksa who didn’t have much hockey time left. The NMC in his contract required protection over younger teammates like Theodore, Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen. So Anaheim traded defenceman Shea Theodore to Vegas so Vegas would draft Clayton Stoner instead of one of their prime prospects. And so on.

The Knights exploitation of NMCs and NTCs turned trading from a trickle into a fire hose, making 10 trades before and after the 2017 draft. That yielded 12 draft picks, while also adding valuable pieces in Marc-Andre Fleury, Shea Theodore, Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch as part of those deals.

Vegas became the best expansion team in any major pro sport ever. The newest team in the NHL has missed the postseason just once since its arrival in 2017-18, in 2022. This while Buffalo, Detroit and Ottawa have missed every postseason in that span, while Anaheim and New Jersey have just one playoff appearance since the Knights’ first season. Naturally this success did not go over well with those clubs and others who felt Vegas needed to pay some dues before becoming a regular in the playoffs.

So when it came time for Seattle Kraken to build their first roster the sentiment around there NHL was “let’s not do that again”. For example, the Kraken wouldn’t get a crack at the Knights’ roster— they were exempted from the expansion draft process.  One other specific change was in the number of NMC and NTC players. After 68 in 2017, there would be just 52 players in that position when the Kraken made their selections in 2021. In short, there were fewer opportunities to pluck cap-strapped teams for players like Karlsson and Marchessault.

The lack of depth on the Kraken showed initially. Seattle wound up 15th in the Western Conference with just 60 points and a minus-69 goal differential. Comparisons to the Knights proved premature. It took another offseason for the Kraken to be competitive. But Matty Beniers is a leading Calder Trophy candidate; it looks like he will be a foundational piece for this fledgling franchise. Vegas and Seattle duelled for the leadership of the Pacific Division all season before Vegas prevailed.

Now they’re in the postseason with the Knights, playing on equal footing with the best. Few players remain from that first Knights team, and few more with the Kraken. But the results remain the same.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via


BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

“I Promised Mess I Wouldn’t Do This”

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There’s an abiding idiom in hockey trades. It says whoever got the best player in a deal wins the trade. If you get Wayne Gretzky you win every trade. After that, received wisdom of trades is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Everyone has a theory. But all agree there’s no denying the impact of trades toward NHL success.

From their evolution as simple player-for-player swaps to the current version of trading players for draft picks, cash, future considerations, salary-cap space or actual humans, the art of swapping in the NHL has become a science, an art and an accounting exercise. Where once it was a pair of hockey-lifer GMs making deals, today’s moves require capologists, accountants, lawyers, agents and, often, the player’s family being onside before a deal can be approved by the NHL.

A whole new culture has grown up within the sport so that deals can be swung. As trades have become more complicated, they have concurrently become less of a burden on the moving parts involved. We’ve come off an offseason with a surprisingly modest number of intriguing deals.

With preseason games starting, to whet the ref’s whistle, here’s a list Rating The Top 25 Trades in NHL history from our next book Deal With It: The Most Impactful Trades In NHL history and How They Changed The Game (due later in 2023). (from ***** to ***)

1) August 9, 1988: Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski from Edmonton to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gélinas, the Kings’ first rounders in 1989 (traded to New Jersey) , 1991 (Martin Rucinsky), 1993 (Nick Stadujar), and $15 million. *****

2) May 15, 1967: Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge from Chicago to Boston for Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris. ****1/2

3) October 4, 1991: Mark Messier and future considerations (Jeff Beukeboom) from Edmonton to the New York Rangers for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice, Louie DeBrusk and future considerations (David Shaw) ****1/

4) December 6, 1995: Patrick Roy and Mike Keane from Montreal to Colorado for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko ****1/2

5) June 30, 1992 Eric Lindros from Quebec City  to Philadelphia for Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, a 1993 1st round pick (#10-Jocelyn Thibault), a 1994 1st-Round pick, (#10-Nolan Baumgartner)) and $15 million in cash *****

6) March 3, 1968: Norm Ullman, Floyd Smith, Paul Henderson and Doug Barrie to Toronto for Garry Unger, Peter Stemkowski, Frank Mahovlich and Carl Brewer ****1/2

6A). January 13, 1971: Frank Mahovlich from Detroit to the Montreal for Guy Charron, Bill Collins and Mickey Redmond ****

7) March 10, 1980 Butch Goring from L.A. to New York Islanders for Dave Lewis and Bill Harris ****

8. November 1947 : Max Bentley from Chicago to Toronto for Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart, Bud Poile, Bob Goldham and Ernie Dickens ****

9) January 2, 1992: Gary Leeman, Alex Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Craig Berube and Michel Petit from Toronto to Calgary for Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Rick Wamsley, Kent Manderville and Doug Gilmour ****1/2

10) August 17, 1992 Dominik Hasek from Chicago to Buffalo for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round draft pick (Eric Daze) ****

11) July 23, 1957 Ted Lindsay and Glenn Hall From Detroit To Chicago for Johnny Wilson, Forbes Kennedy, Hank Bassen, Eric Preston ***1/2

12) June 28, 1994: Garth Butcher, Mats Sundin, Todd Warriner and 1994 first-round pick (#10-Nolan Baumgartner) from Quebec City to Toronto for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and 1994 1st round pick (#22-Jeff Kealty) ***1/2

13) May 22, 1970 : 1971 1st-round pick (#1-Guy Lafleur) and Francois Lacombe from Oakland to Montreal for Ernie Hicke and 1970 1st-round pick (#10-Chris Oddleifson) *****

14) Nov. 7, 1975: Phil Esposito, Carol Vadnais from Boston to New York Rangers For Brad Park, Jean Ratelle ****

15) October 1989: Tom Kurvers from New Jersey to Toronto for first-round pick (#3 Scott Niedermayer) ****

16) Nov. 30 2005: Joe Thornton from Boston to San Jose for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm ***1/2

17) December 20, 1995: Joe Nieuwendyk from Calgary to Dallas for Jarome Iginla ***1/2

18) Feb. 22, 1964: Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney from New York Rangers to Toronto for Dick Duff, Bob Nevin, Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown and Bill Collins. ***

19) March 7, 1988: Brett Hull  from Calgary to to St. Louis for Rick Wamsley and Rob Ramage ***

20) June 29, 1990: Denis Savard from Chicago to Montreal for Chris Chelios ***

21) June 24, 1963: Dave Balon, Leon Rochefort, Len Ronson and Lorne “Gump” Worsley from New York Rangers to Montreal for Donny Marshall, Phil Goyette and Jacques Plante. ***

22) June 24, 2000: Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha from Florida to the New York Islanders for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen ***

23) February 10, 1960: Red Kelly from Detroit to Toronto for Marc Rheaume ***1/2

24) October 10, 1930: King Clancy from Ottawa to Toronto for Eric Petting, Art Smith, cash ***

25) June 28, 1964: Ken Dryden and Alex Campbell from Boston to Montreal for Paul Reid and Guy Allen ****

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via


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Bruce Dowbiggin

If You Don’t Hear From Me, It’s Because I Don’t Hear From You.

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In his memoir, former BMO CEO Tony Comper recalled the press conference to announce a merger between two Japanese automobile corporations. Everything was going swimmingly until someone at the presser asked how long would it be before the two corporate cultures fully merged?

One of the CEOs replied without hesitation. “Forty-three years.”

Forty-three years? Why forty-three years? he was asked.

“Because that’s how long it will be until the executives who made this deal are all dead.”

Yes, there are stubborn business cultures. But there are also political cultures that persist against all efforts to convince them they are deluded. People find it hard to change their ways— particularly when they’ve defended them publicly for years. The New Left’s ironclad resistance to reason and debate is a feature, not a glitch. How to reach them in a friendly, inclusive manner?

Good luck. The Right’s challenge is thinking these people will respond to shame or being corrected. Can’t be done. Won’t be done. They’re like Japanese soldiers fighting WW II on a deserted island 25 years after armistice. They’ll die repeating the Donald Trump Bleach meme to themselves.

Marines help a Japanese soldier from a dugout on Tinian Island during the Fall of Tinian in World War II. He holds a cigarette the Leathernecks used to coax him out. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

This Gallup poll sheds light on how American (and Canadian) cultures can be blissfully unaware of some huge stories and obsessed by other narratives that fit their mindset. It shows that from 1972-2022 that GOP trust of media has plummeted from 41 percent to under 10 percent, while independents have gone from 53 percent to under 36 percent trust. IOW, their former favourite news sources don’t jive with their everyday reality.

But Democrats in the poll have vaulted from 64 percent to 76 percent in trust of media. Why? One reason probably lies with being told the narratives that please them. That give them comfort. These consumers allow legacy media’s fact checkers to sort out what they should know from “disinformation” without getting their hands dirty with the original story.

How pervasive was the scrubbing? The recent Missouri v. Biden recognized that federal government officials had been interfering with social media companies that digressed from the “accepted” line. An appeals court ordered them to stop. In another case, FBI was bribing reporters and scientists to change their opinions on the origin of the Covid-19 virus, sanitizing stories before they are doled out to the Woke.

“The Science” is supposed to be an ongoing vigorous debate with few settled laws. Yet, most cult scientists refuse debate, preferring to dismiss opponents as conspiracy nuts or— as they did with vaccines— dangers to society. When Al Gore allows himself to be cornered by questions, he rolls his eyes, sighs theatrically and asks his followers how anyone could deny The Science.

Gore’s climate apocalypse culture has morphed within a generation from the few fighting pollution to a global dogma of CO2 poisoning nature . Attempts to talk sense on carbon emission obsession, plastics prohibitions, aversion to the nuclear option, Greta Thunberg beatification have all proven futile in the face of an End Oil Now cult that makes Scientology look like the Boy Scouts.

It was the same for the #RussiaHoax, #FinePeopleHoax, #BleachHoax and now Hillary Clinton’s “real war on truth, facts, and reason”. These liberal road-tested canards persists to this day. Here’s Biden on a rare cogent day this summer repeating the #FinePeople hoax that has been debunked years before. Even the Washington Post has had enough, listing Biden’s Top 100 fabulist claims since becoming POTUS.

The latest cult cleansing is Biden’s patently false denial of any contact with son Hunter Biden’s Shakedown scheme. The denial is awarded first position beside #climateemergency on search engines and nightly newscasts. Famously, 51 former security directors and officials claimed, without evidence, that Hunter’s infamous laptop was Russian disinformation. Case closed, said MSNBC. No wonder so many consumers of legacy media in this echo chamber can blithely claim there is no substance to any of the Hunter stories documented by the competition and chronicled on his own hard drive.

The Canadian equivalent of denial culture came with the magic “cure-all” vaccines. Rather than publicly confront the Truckers Convoy on their refusal to take Covid-19 vaccines (which are now accepted as being flawed ), Trudeau hid in the Rideau Cottage calling truckers “an insult to science”. To make sure they never got a chance to question him he sent the cops after them, arrested them, suspended their civil liberties and finances and subjected them to show trials.

And he was supported by the purchased Canadian media who vilified the protesters— for lack of armed insurrection or rioting— for staying too long in their protest. Many promoted false stories of arson and foreign financing of the convoy. This media Trudeau then tried to reward with Bill C-18— designed to make Meta, Google and other large tech sources pay to prop up failing Canadian media. In response, Meta has blocked all news links in Canada and cancelled existing deals with Canadian news outlets. The blocked links cover both Canadian and foreign news in light of Bill C-18.

And the same newspaper lobby that largely gave him a free pass on declaring a national emergency now wants the $595 million “temporary” bailout to be extended with double the subsidies (seeking government tax credits equal to 35% of labour costs.) The bailout meant to aid transition to digital is now instead a Trudeau lifeline in the Toronto Star’s bankruptcy. In the meantime, writes Michael Geist, “investment in the publishing sector has ground to a halt, Canadians have lost access to news on social media, and small and independent media are particularly hard hit. Avoiding the Canadian outcome is a now a top policy priority in other countries looking at media legislation.”

All this as the federal government prepares an online hate speech law— hate to be defined by themselves.
Many are just hoping that a Liberal loss in the next election will cease the encircling madness. That sanity will prevail. But the Japanese car manufacturers are telling us not to get our hopes too high. Trudeau Nation is quite prepared to got to its grave before ever admitting its copious mistakes.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via

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